Monday, May 8, 2017

Ode to the Netflix DVD rental queue

Back in the days of Blockbuster stores and home-video rentals, I used to keep a written list of movies I wanted to watch. It was better than trying to remember all the titles and walk through the store aisles looking for something of interest.
Then along came Netflix DVD rentals by mail. With the Netflix queue, I could add all the movies from my list, even ones that hadn’t been released yet. I no longer had to keep a physical list.
But with the video business moving to streaming services, I’m again having to keep a list of things I want to watch (actually I store them as bookmarks in a folder in my web browser). That’s because some movies and TV series are not being released on DVD any more. And Netflix streaming doesn’t have a save feature for videos not on their service.
There has never been a more confusing time to be a TV viewer looking for good shows to watch. Record numbers of TV series are being produced and there’s been an explosion of streaming video services with original content. Those online-only channels (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, etc.) are in addition to the traditional broadcast and cable networks.
There’s no one place to keep track of all the TV shows and movies I’d like to watch. For a while, the Netflix DVD rental queue offered the solution. But not anymore.
I have subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Prime online video services, so my Netflix streaming queue contains shows like “Stranger Things” and “The OA,” while my Amazon queue has “Man in the High Castle” and others.
I don’t have Hulu, but would like to watch “Difficult People” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I also don’t have CBS All Access, but will want to watch “Star Trek: Discovery” when it premieres. Ideally those shows will be released on DVD so I can watch them through Netflix DVD. Otherwise, I might have to subscribe to those services for a month and binge watch.
I get my Showtime shows such as “Homeland” and likely the “Twin Peaks” revival via Netflix DVD, but they’re months late. The same goes for BBC America’s “Orphan Black.” I currently subscribe to HBO for “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld,” but I might cut that service to save money.
The lack of organization in online video is one of the big failed promises of digital content.
Some services have cropped up to try to solve the problem, including Can I Stream It?, JustWatch and InstantWatcher, but none provide the ideal solution of a unified viewing queue.

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